Pacific Power lobbying to increase electricity rates

February 19, 2001 12:00 am

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Del Norte County residents will be seeing a 10 percent increase in their electric bills if the local power provider can convince California legislators of the need.

PacifiCorp, parent company of Pacific Power, has drafted a proposal to modify California assembly bill 1890 that is currently stopping the company from increasing its rates for residential users.

The aim of the proposal is to allow Pacific Power to increase residential rates 10 percent by April 1, 2001.

Del Norte County supervisors were presented with the proposal for the boards endorsement during their regular session Tuesday morning. The board offered its endorsement with a four-to-one vote. Chairperson Martha McClure was the dissenting vote.

I chose to dissent because there hasnt been any kind of public input in regards to rate increases, said McClure. And I was not comfortable with some of the wording in the draft.

PacifiCorp is not getting a good deal in California, said county supervisor Clyde Eller. We spent several days with our attorney, Bob Black, to make changes in the draft, and I think its fair. The odds are pretty good the amendment will pass.

Consultant Bob Fredenburg of state Senator Wes Chesbros office, said his office received a different draft from PacifiCorp on Friday requesting to exempt the company from three California assembly bills, including AB 1890.

I believe (PacificCorp) is looking to correct two different problems they are facing, said Fredenburg.

Fredenburg said one problem is that California is currently designing regulations specifically tailored for the problems facing Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison. PacifiCorp operates on a completely separate power grid from these companies and may become locked into ill-fitting regulations.

Second, as a result of AB 1890 which passed in 1996, all deregulated power companies in California were mandated to reduce their rates by 10 percent to residential customers. PacifiCorp was included in the rate reduction despite owning virtually no power-generating plants in California.

We face a different situation from the big three power providers in California, said Jan Mitchell, spokesperson for PacifiCorp. Also, our prices were already so much lower than the other investor-owned utilities that we need to be able to make a fair return.

I think what PacifiCorp wants is to get out of these regulations, said Fredenburg. In exchange, theyre offering a long-term contract to provide power to the service area.

The two drafts include clauses that indicate PacifiCorp is still considering selling its local power company. They say that if the amendment draft is approved by state legislators, it will freeze the 10 percent rate for the next five years.

This rate freeze will be extended by two years if PacifiCorp sells its northern California service territory to another entity, such as Nor-Cal, according to the documents.

If Nor-Cal goes through, said Eller, well have seven years of low-cost power. Thats a better deal than PG&E and SoCal Edison are getting.